A nature reserve is always a busy place, in terms of both wildlife, visitors and events. Saltholme is no exception, and this week definitely proves it! Read on to catch up on the latest news from the site…

News from the Estate:

Bracken can spread quickly if left unchecked. While an important habitat in itself, it’s important to keep it controlled so it doesn’t shade out wildflower species. Image Credit: Sara Porter, RSPB Images.

It’s a hectic time of year for the estates team; as well as monitoring all the species and chicks on the site, they also have maintain and improve the reserve for wildlife and visitors. With so much going on, it’s no wonder that finding more efficient management regimes is always welcome. As with every industry, conservation is constantly evolving as new techniques are developed and perfected. This week, the team have been trialling ways to reduce the spread of bracken in the Haverton Scrub area. So, we will wait with bated breath to see if rolling, cutting or bruising the stems works best.

What’s On:

Sweep netting is a technique used to survey insects and other minibeasts in meadow areas. The net is very light, and so can be swept through the grass without injuring the target animals. They can then be identified and counted, before being re-released. Image Credit: Andy Hay, RSPB Images.

After all the events over half-term, you would think that we would give ourselves a quieter week. But because it is no longer half-term, our school trips are back up and running! It’s therefore been a week full of pond dipping, natural art, minibeast hunting and much, much more.

Pond dipping is one of our most popular activities. It involves sweeping a net through a pond to collect the small creatures that live under the surface. We then place the contents of the net into the tray to identify them. In the picture above, you can see one of the damselfly nymphs we caught recently.

It’s not just the schools that get to use nets on the reserve- we welcomed a local Cub Group to Saltholme for an evening of pond dipping, meadow sweeping and natural art. Lots of interesting insects (and plenty of other fascinating minibeasts) were found over the course of the session, and were greeting with great enthusiasm. If you are interested in bringing your squirrel/beaver/cub/scouts/explorer scouts group to Saltholme, please get in touch through saltholme@rspb.org.uk.

We are also running pond dipping sessions for families over the weekends; just ask at the front desk on arrival for more details.

Recent Sightings:

Marsh harriers are more thickset than other harrier species and have a beautiful mix of russet tones in their feathers. The females are larger than the males and have a distinctive white head. Image Credit: Les Bunyan, RSPB Images.

Of course, everyone is talking about the glossy ibis(es) that are still hanging around our Philstead hide. But the other birds are getting jealous and so have been putting on a display themselves. For example, our marsh harrier has been trying to draw attention away from the ibis by flying between our Haverton viewpoint and Philstead hides.

The great white egret (pictured above) is about the same size as a grey heron, so is much larger than the little egret. It also has a distinctive yellow bill. Image Credit: Mark Stokeld

The great white egret has also been showing off for visitors. It was seen from our Wildlife Watchpoint hide, looking for lunch on Thursday.

It’s also not all been about the birds this week; our moth species have been showing well too. For example, a longhorn moth was seen this week. There are several species of longhorn moth in the UK. As you can probably guess, their defining characteristic is their long antennae. Whilst longhorn moths are relatively common, they are still beautiful and often overlooked. So, we thought we would give them a spotlight in this week’s blog.

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between dragonflies and damselflies (especially as neither breathes fire nor wears medieval dresses). One way to tell them apart is by looking at their wings; damselflies rest with their wings lying parallel to their bodies, whereas dragonflies’ wings are always perpendicular to their bodies. Image Credit: Jodie Randall, RSPB Images.

And the damselflies are back! We have seen plenty of common blue damselflies flying around our discovery zone ponds. These fast-paced fliers light up our ponds with their brilliant blue bodies, and are a sign of approaching summer. Keep an eye out for them on your next visit.

We have two great crested grebe chicks on our main lake. Look out for their stripy feathers! Image Credit: Mark Stokeld.

We have an abundance of chicks on the reserve at the moment. As well as our ever-popular avocet and little ringed plover chicks at the Saltholme pools hide, we also now have shoveler ducklings and great crested grebe chicks on the main lake.

So there you have it- a quick snapshot of life at Saltholme. As usual, there is simply not enough space in this blog to mention all the amazing wildlife we have on-site. You’ll just have to visit us and see it for yourself!

References and Additional Reading

British Dragonfly Society (2022). Common Blue Damselfly [webpage]. Accessed through https://british-dragonflies.org.uk/species/common-blue-damselfly/ [last accessed 10/06/2022].

Butterfly Conservation (2022). Green Longhorn [webpage]. Accessed through https://butterfly-conservation.org/moths/green-longhorn [last accessed 10/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Avocet [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/avocet/ [last accessed 10/06/2022]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Great Crested Grebe [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-crested-grebe/ [last accessed 10/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Great White Egret [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-white-egret/ [last accessed 11/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Little Egret [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/little-egret/ [last accessed 10/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Little Ringed Plover [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/little-ringed-plover/ [last accessed 10/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Marsh Harrier [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/marsh-harrier/ [last accessed 10/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Shoveler [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/shoveler/ [last accessed 10/06/2022].

UK Safari (2006). Longhorn Moth [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.uksafari.com/nemophor.htm [last accessed 10/06/2022].

Anonymous